Skip navigational links.  
NOAA homepage National Weather Service Forecast Office   NWS homepage
Caribou, Maine

Local forecast by
"City, St" is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.
New All-Time Low Temperature Recorded in Maine
Table of Contents

NWS Public Information Statement

Public Information Statement
National Weather Service (NWS), Caribou, Maine
11:30 AM EST, Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New All-Time Low Temperature Recorded in Maine

On the morning of January 16, as New England was under the grip of an arctic blast, an all-time low temperature of -50° Fahrenheit was recorded for Maine. It was recorded at 7:30 a.m. EST at a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauge on the Big Black River near Depot Mountain in northwestern Aroostook County. The previous record, -48° Fahrenheit, was set in Van Buren, Maine almost 84 years earlier, on January 19, 1925.

“It is exciting to be a part of this historic event.” said George Jacobson, Maine State Climatologist and Member of the State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC), the group that vetted this measurement for consideration as a new all time minimum temperature record for the State of Maine. “But the real benefit to the State is in good weather and climate data being recorded daily by the NWS, USGS and other partners in the scientific community.”

The lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. was -80 degrees Fahrenheit on January 23, 1971 at Prospect Creek, Alaska, according the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The lowest temperature recorded in the lower 48 states was -70 egress Fahrenheit on January 20, 1954 at Rogers Pass, Mont.

The existence of this temperature sensor owes to the partnership between the NWS Weather Forecast Offices in Caribou and Gray, and the USGS Maine Water Science Center in Augusta. This partnership resulted in installation of NWS supplied air temperature sensors on many existing NWS river forecast points and USGS stream gauges over the past several years. The aim of this partnership was to better serve society’s needs for high quality weather, water, and climate information.

Increasingly, partnerships such as this between the NWS and USGS are being founded to leverage resources used in weather, water, and climate research to better meet the public’s needs. This leverage has resulted in the nearly fourfold increase in the number of temperature reporting stations across the state of Maine between 1925 and 2009.

The process of challenging a state record is comprehensive. The initial report is considered unofficial until a review of the equipment and data is conducted by the State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) as to the validity of the report. These findings are submitted to the Director of the National Climatic Data Center for recommendation. The State Climate Extremes Committee includes: the National Weather Service, the State Climatologist, the Northeast Regional Climate Center, and the National Climatic Data Center.

Here is a brief summary of the process:

  • State Climate Extreme Committee activated.
  • SCEC conference call examined all available data.
  • Two temperature sensors and a data logger sent to the USGS Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility for testing.
  • Temperature sensors and data logger tested to a low of -50 degrees Celsius (-58.0 degrees Fahrenheit). Sensors performed within their specified accuracy of plus/minus .2 degrees Celsius over the entire temperature range.
  • SCEC reconvened. A vote was called for recommending the -45.3 degrees Celsius (-50 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature recorded at the Big Black River be submitted to the National Climatic Data Center as a new statewide all-time record low temperature for Maine. The vote for recommendation was unanimous.
  • NCDC Director approved SCEC recommendation.

Timeline of Events

01/19/1925 – W.H. Scott, a weather observer for the USDA, Weather Bureau, records a temperature of -48° Fahrenheit. Other notable temperatures from the area on that date were: -43° at Houlton, -41° at Presque Isle and Millinocket and -32° at Old Town and Winslow (all temperatures in Fahrenheit).

10/1/1983 – USGS station 01010070 begins reporting river data for the Big Black River near Depot Mountain, in northwestern Aroostook County, Maine.

08/17/2005 – NWS temperature sensor installed.

07/26/2007 – Temperature sensor upgraded to current configuration.

01/06/2009 – Temperature sensor checked for accuracy by USGS.

01/16/2009 – Temperature sensor records -45.3° Celsius (-50° Fahrenheit).

01/16/2009 – NWS issues Public Information Statement advising of a potential new statewide all time record low temperature.

01/16/2009 – State Climate Extreme Committee (SCEC) activated.

01/21/2009 – SCEC conference call examines all available data. Operating range of temperature sensor questioned.

01/23/2009 – Two temperature sensors and data logger sent to the USGS Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility for testing.

01/30/2009 – Temperature Sensors and data logger tested to a low temperature of -50.0° Celsius (-58° Fahrenheit). Sensors perform within their specified accuracy of ± 0.2° Celsius over entire temperature test range.

02/04/2009 – SCEC reconvenes. A vote was called for recommending that the -45.3° Celsius
(-50° Fahrenheit) temperature recorded at the Big Black River be submitted to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) as a new statewide all-time record low temperature for Maine. The SCEC vote for recommendation is unanimous.

02/04/2009 – NCDC Director approves SCEC recommendation. .

Temperatures Across Maine, 16 Jan. 2009

These were the preliminary temperature reports from January 16, 2009.

  • First, a map showing temperatures reported across Maine.
  • Second is a listing of these reports..
Temps in Maine on Jan. 26, 2009
***********************MINIMUM TEMPERATURES***********************

                     DEGREES        OF
                      (F)       MEASUREMENT


   BIG BLACK RIVER        -50   731 AM  1/16 USGS BBRM1
   NINEMILE BRIDGE        -48   841 AM  1/16 USGS NINM1
   ALLAGASH               -47   722 AM  1/16 COOP ALGM1
   DICKEY                 -45   833 AM  1/16 USGS DICM1
   LILLE                  -45   717 AM  1/16 AR034
   MASARDIS               -45   840 AM  1/16 USGS MASM1
   CLAYTON LAKE           -44   832 AM  1/16 COOP CLTM1
   GRAND ISLE             -44   722 AM  1/16 SPOTTER
   OXBOW                  -43   842 AM  1/16 COOP OXBM1
   FORT KENT MILLS        -41   853 AM  1/16 AR054
   STOCKHOLM              -41   717 AM  1/16 SPOTTER
   VAN BUREN              -41   845 AM  1/16 COOP VANM1
   EAGLE LAKE             -40   902 AM  1/16 COOP EGLM1
   FORT KENT              -40   851 AM  1/16 COOP FISM1
   FOX BROOK              -40   835 AM  1/16 COOP FOXM1
   PRESQUE ISLE           -39   758 AM  1/16 AWOS KPQI
   LIMESTONE              -38   917 AM  1/16 COOP LIZM1
   CARIBOU WFO            -37   718 AM  1/16 ASOS KCAR
   MADAWASKA              -37   832 AM  1/16 AR037
   SHERMAN                -37   902 AM  1/16 AR072
   HOULTON                -35   838 AM  1/16 ASOS KHUL
   LIMESTONE              -35   717 AM  1/16 AR035
   FRENCHVILLE            -30   835 AM  1/16 ASOS KFVE
   ASHLAND                -28   716 AM  1/16 SPOTTER
   KNOWLES CORNER         -18   839 AM  1/16 COOP KNCM1

   WALTHAM                -30   725 AM  1/16 SPOTTER
   PENOBSCOT              -20   717 AM  1/16 HA037
   BAR HARBOR             -15   831 AM  1/16 AWOS KBHB
   PROSPECT HARBOR        -10   842 AM  1/16 COOP PPHM1

   GRINDSTONE             -38   837 AM  1/16 USGS GRNM1
   SHIN POND              -38   843 AM  1/16 USGS SBSM1
   CORINNA                -31   852 AM  1/16 COOP CORM1
   OLD TOWN               -30   841 AM  1/16 COOP OLDM1
   MATTAWAMKEAG           -29   840 AM  1/16 USGS MATM1
   WEST ENFIELD           -28   845 AM  1/16 USGS WENM1
   BANGOR                 -24   831 AM  1/16 ASOS KBGR
   MILLINOCKET            -24   841 AM  1/16 ASOS KMLT
   PATTEN                 -24   842 AM  1/16 COOP PATM1
   SUNKHAZE N.W.R.        -22   843 AM  1/16 COOP SHZM1
   DIXMONT                -12   833 AM  1/16 COOP DIXM1

   KOKADJO                -39   839 AM  1/16 COOP KKJM1
   ABBOT VILLAGE          -37   811 AM  1/16 USGS ABTM1
   BLANCHARD              -35   831 AM  1/16 USGS BLAM1
   GUILFORD               -35   723 AM  1/16 COOP GULM1
   RIPOGENUS DAM          -35   843 AM  1/16 COOP RIPM1
   SEBEC LAKE             -32   838 AM  1/16 COOP GREM1
   DOVER-FOXCROFT         -31   852 AM  1/16 COOP DFXM1
   MILO                   -24   851 AM  1/16 COOP MLDM1
   GREENVILLE             -21   837 AM  1/16 ASOS KGNR

   SAINT AURELIE          -44   844 AM  1/16 COOP STAM1
   TURNER BROOK RAWS      -38   845 AM  1/16 COOP TNBM1

   DANFORTH               -35   833 AM  1/16 COOP DANM1
   WESLEY                 -31   845 AM  1/16 USGS WSLM1
   CHERRYFIELD            -28   831 AM  1/16 USGS CFDM1
   EPPING                 -26   835 AM  1/16 USGS EPPM1
   MOOSEHORN N.W.R.       -26   841 AM  1/16 COOP MWRM1
   MACHIAS                -25   840 AM  1/16 USGS MACM1
   DENNYSVILLE            -24   834 AM  1/16 USGS DVLM1
   PRINCETON              -22   842 AM  1/16 COOP PNNM1
   WHITING                -21   801 AM  1/16 WS038
   GRAND LAKE STREAM      -20   836 AM  1/16 COOP GLSM1
   TOPSFIELD              -20   852 AM  1/16 COOP TOPM1
   WAITE                  -20   722 AM  1/16 WS034
   EAST MACHIAS           -18   852 AM  1/16 COOP ESTM1
   JONESBORO              -14   838 AM  1/16 COOP JONM1
   JONESPORT RAINWISE     -13   839 AM  1/16 COOP JPTM1
   CUTLER RAINWISE        -12   833 AM  1/16 COOP CUTM1
   MILBRIDGE              -12   723 AM  1/16 WS031
   EASTPORT                -9   834 AM  1/16 COOP EPOM1

Other Extremes of Interest

United States Extreme Temperatures

  • Maximum 134°F (56.7°C) July 10, 1913 at Greenland Ranch, CA
  • Minimum -80°F (-62.2°C) January 23, 1971 at Prospect Creek, AK
  • Contiguous 48 Minimum -70°F (-56.5 °C) January 20, 1954 at Rogers Pass, MT

New England Extreme Temperatures

  • Maximum 107°F (41.7°C) August 2, 1975 at New Bedford & Chester, MA
  • Minimum -50°F (-45.3°C) December 30, 1933 at Bloomfield, VT and January 16, 2009 at Big Black River, ME

Maine Record Extreme Temperatures

  • Maximum 105°F (40.6°C) July 10, 1911 at North Bridgton, ME
  • Minimum -50°F (-45.3°C) January 16, 2009 at Big Black River, ME

Extremes for Maine Towns / Cities

Extremes are available for over 40 Maine towns and cities by using our NOWData web query.

Go to either the WFO Caribou or Gray interface depending on where the place of interest lies.

First choose the Record Extremes radio button under "1. Product >>."

Next, choose a town / city from the menu under "2. Location >>."

Choose the weather element you have interested in under "3. Variable >>."

Choose "Entire Year" under "4. Month >>."

Most Importantly: choose "Highest" or ":Lowest" appropriately under "5. High/Low" for the weather element chosen. For example: if you have chosen "Min Temperature" under "3. Variable >>" then you want to select "Lowest" under "5. High/Low >>." Why? Because you want the lowest recorded min temperature, not the highest. If you had selected "Max Temperature" then you would want "Highest."

Finally, press the "Go" button under "6. View >>."

Where is the Big Black River?

The Big Black River is located in northwestern Aroostook County. A tributary of the upper St. John River, it originates in the province of Quebec, Canada. It enters Maine halfway between Depot Mountain and the St. Pamphile Checkpoint. It ends in the St. John River, joining 27 miles upstream from Dickey.

The USGS stream gauge in question is located near where the Depot Rd. crosses the Big Black River, about two miles from the Canadian border. For its exact pinpoint location, see the USGS web site for its associated maps . For info about the gauge and the data it collects see its USGS Data Summary .

The following map will help to place this remote location for you. The location of the gauge is indicated by the red pin. Use the map's zoom feature take a closer look, if you so desire.

View Larger Map

The gauge is in a huge tract of uninhabited Maine wilderness. According to the 2000 census, only 27 people live in the gauge's census block group, represented on the U.S. Census Bureau map below. Surprisingly, 11 of those people live within a five mile radius of the gauge.

This census block group's population density is much less that 1 person per square mile. Compare this to Aroostook County, with 11 persons per square mile and 41 persons per square mile for all of Maine.

See the Census Bureau's interactive map for complete details.

The town of Saint-Pampile, Quebec, Canada is only about four miles from the gauge. It had a population of 2,847 in 2001, according to Statistics Canada.

Map of Census Tract 9507, with Population 27

New England All-Time Lows

Map of New England All-Time Low Temps

U.S. All-Time Lows

Map of U.S. All-Time Low Temps

U.S. All-Time Highs

Map of U.S. All-Time High Temps

Photo of the Gauge Site

What does it look like? Here is a photo of the gauge's site. The non-weatherproof electronics for the various sensors and communications gear are situated in the building. The sensors are outside the building. The only sensor shown here is the small cylindrical snow capped finned object on the right side of the building. That is the temperature sensor.

Photo of Gauge Site View Larger Photo

NWS Use of the Gauge

Why is it important to have stream gauges out in the middle of nowhere? One specific use for us in the National Weather Service is for flood prediction. Gauges all along a river system, from its headwaters on down, contribute to the success of our flood predictions.

For this purpose, the gauge's ability to measure water level is most important. Other sensors, such as the temperature sensor, (which is getting all the attention here), are used for ancillary purposes. The temperature, for example, helps judge snow melt rates, an important factor in spring flooding.

Home—NWS Forecast Office—Caribou, Maine

National Weather Service
Caribou Weather Forecast Office
810 Main St
Caribou ME 04736
(207) 492-0170
Page last modified: January 18, 2007
Privacy Policy
About Us
Career Opportunities